Court forces Joburg council to fix billing mess
A property owner is so fed up with years of fruitless attempts to rectify faulty property rates and tax accounts with the Johannesburg Metro Council that he has turned to the Pretoria High Court.
Izak Fourie, a North West farmer who owned property in the Joburg area, said he tried to negotiate with the council to set his account straight - but in vain.
The council's billing system was in chaos and although he went to its offices many times to try to fix the mistakes, nothing had changed. He had declared a dispute with the council, yet month after month he received a "final notice".
"In the light of my fruitless attempts to solve the problems - [by] telephone, visits to their offices and written submissions - it is clear they have no measures to detect mistakes on accounts or rectify them," Fourie said.
Hiss gripes include "fictitious" arrears on accounts. He is also billed for property he does not own. He said he wanted only that the council listen to his problems and rectify them.
"I am not asking for anything [but] what the law prescribes the council has to do."
Fourie said he had for years made attempts to solve the billing problems, but to no avail.
One of his problems is that he had sold property he inherited to a buyer in 2004, and another to another buyer in 2009.
These properties had been registered in the names of the new owners, but he continued to receive accounts for rates and taxes for them. The council was also threatening him with legal action regarding a property "which does not exist".
Fourie said his attorney had taken up the problems with the council, but it had not responded.
He also owned property with offices and shops. For this property "fictitious amounts" suddenly appeared on his account. Fourie feared the council would disconnect his electricity supply, leaving his tenants in the dark. He was paying R10 000 a month on this account - far more than he should.
Fourie said papers relating to his application for an order compelling the council to attend to his problems had been served on the council more than two years ago. But the council had time and again asked for a postponement.
"The officials who have the power to resolve this dispute, do not know what is happening on the accounts and those who know... have no power to address the problems," he said.
In opposing this application, the council said there was no need for Fourie to turn to court. It acknowledged the dispute.
The council said it had given Fourie printouts of accounts, and"invited" him many times to "debate" his accounts, but "these offers were rejected".
Judge Roger Claassen ordered the council to meet Fourie within 30 days to identify the problems and to rectify them within three months of the meeting.